Saturday, March 05, 2005

Whose life matters?

For whatever reason, I spent the majority of yesterday morning's inordinately long commute wondering about people in the "Prolife" Movement. Those of us who are Pro-Choice are fully aware of the vast disparities in our own personal views on abortion. As the movement is one of mutual respect of personal views without requiring others to hold the same views and live in accordance to them (choice), there is no conflict or inconsistency in the agenda of the movement. The more I interact with "Prolife" advocates, the less homogeneity I see among them as some are very strict with their views against abortion (abortion outlawed for any reason but ectopic pregnancy), are against hormonal contraception (they consider it an abortifiacient), and they do not approve of the withdrawal of life support; some think life begins at conception and abortion should only be allowed in cases of incest & imminent risk to the mother (but not for fetal defects or rape); some are just against abortion "on demand", but accept use of contraception and withdrawal of life support; and then there are others in between.

Over the past few years, there's been an upsurge in vitriol as the "Prolife" movement has been emboldened by the actions of the Bush Administration and the increased domination/control of the Republican party by the NeoCons and Religious Right. Legislation is continuously being created to intentionally chip away at Roe to the point that there's proposed legislation to allow individual pharmacists to refuse to fill legitimate and legal prescriptions for hormonal contraceptive agents that are sold by the Pharmacy that employs them on the grounds of "personal conscience." Under this legislation, other healthcare providers can also refuse treatment on these grounds as well; while this is presumably limited to performing abortions, if not written explicity to state this, a physician could theoretically refuse other treatment on the grounds they object to a female cancer patient terminating a pregnancy in order to undergo treatment (something that may be against the physician's religious beliefs).

Why is it that a healthcare provider/pharmacist can refuse to do something that is clearly a potentially routine part of a job and/or specialty when it comes to women's health issues/reproductive medicine but not another when said healthcare provider could easily choose to work at a facility that does not offer services they find morally objectionable (heck a doctor could specialize in a branch of medicine that wouldn't entail abortions). Is legislation really necessary to allow people to refuse something that is a legal, and likely, routine part of that job based on their moral objections? We don't normally provide legal protections for everyone who takes a job knowingly not wanting to perform certain functions, if I keep kosher and work at a restaurant, I cannot refuse to put in an order for pork chops or a cheeseburger based on my moral objections any more than a vegetarian could. The right appears to be getting even more overzealous to confer new rights of protection for personal/moral beliefs that cannot be applied equally because they are limited to those who are offended by abortion.

This, of course, leads to fears that abortion is most definitely not the stopping point for this movement; the next steps will include outlawing IVF & contraception because "every 'life' is sacred" from conception through birth, and then at the very end of life until both the heart and brain cease to perform any activity. The period in between is not too much of a concern it seems. Prolifers who post on the Pro-Choice America blog have stated that they are sure they are in the majority and that contraception is not at risk, but they've also made some statements that sound very inconsistent. doesn't sound particularly assuring and doesn't make a strong case for their own opinion [emphasis added] :

"Ol Cranky,

I guess I misled you a little bit without meaning to. I consider hormonal contraception to be an abortafacient, but I do not think that it should be outlawed like I believe that surgical abortion should be, nor do I know anyone who has put forth any legislation to outlaw hormonal contraception. Do you know of any legislation currently being pushed that will outlaw the pill? I know the FDA is still considering whether or not to make EC available over the counter, but I don't consider that to be legislation.

Perhaps you think I am inconsistant in my abortion views because I do not believe that an abortafacient should be outlawed. It really comes down to this: I believe that no one should be legally allowed to use an overt act to kill another human being except in matters of self-defense. The pill does not do abortionist does." [Posted by: exdem | February 24, 2005 07:27 PM]

Another inconsitency I've come across from some "Prolifers" is intentional early induction of labor and delivery of a fetus with significant fetal deformity [emphasis added]:
"It seems the moral respect due to a fetus with anencephaly who has no prospects of long-term survival could be ethically reconciled with a compassionate desire to alleviate her distress and minimize potential health risks for the mother. This could be done by inducing labor at a stage when a healthy fetus would have a reasonable chance of survival with fewer health risks for the mother. Bearing in mind that clinical assessments vary for each individual case, induction from 33 completed weeks would seem reasonable since normal infants have a two-out-of-three chance of survival from 33 weeks without treatment in NICU. The mother could have the consolation of nursing her baby until natural death occurs due to the infant's inherent lethal condition. This stage was deemed to be the threshold of viability prior to NICU. Henry Davis summed up the moral consensus of the 1950s as follows:

Expulsion of the fetus between the seventh and the ninth month is premature birth or acceleration of birth, not abortion. [Father Norman M. Ford, S.D.B., extracted from The Prenatal Person: Ethics from Conception to Birth (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2002)]

Some hospitals (including Catholic ones) have induced significantly earlier that 32 weeks; if the delivery does not result in still birth, neonatal death generally comes shortly thereafter. If decisions are made based on anticipated long-term survival, is it not inconsitent that early induction that will surely hasten death due to underlying disease by adding co-morbidities of prematurity that would make a baby resulting from live birth struggle all that much more? In the views of some "prolifers" this is acceptable because a baby is "born" but these same people condemn termination of pregnancy via surgical means & ru-486 w/misoprostol at an even earlier stage (which decreases potential for a losing struggle until death) as murder? Even in the case of anencephaly, some babies survive longer than a few hours/days/weeks. Based on a "Prolife" argument of inherent right to life regardless of quality/duration and desire to extend the duration of life even a little, wouldn't any "Prolifer" be compelled to keep even a child with a rapidly fatal defect in utero and not induce/deliver early unless the mother's life is in imminent danger?

The "Prolife" movement bases it's desire to ban abortion, etc. based on an appreciation of the sanctity of life they frequently claim is missing in those who do not want abortion outlawed.

Now this was not meant to be a treatise on "Prolife" v Pro-choice, I provide this background so you can understand what was rattling around in my little head as I started to contemplate the focus of the "Prolife" community on gestation/ensuring birth and the terminal stages of life. It's just that all this stuff, made me start thinking about other things.

In particular, I wondered how many of those who think abortion should be illegal in all cases but ectopic pregnancy (especially those who consider hormonal contraception to be an abortifacient) proactively engage in other activities to help save the lives of others. By this, I don't mean getting involved to fight euthanasia or the Terry Schiavo situation, I mean how many are actively putting their own bodies on the line in order to preserve the lives of others?

  • How many of these people are regular blood and/or pheresis donors?
  • How many of these people are registered in the national bone marrow donor program?
  • How many are registered as organ and tissue donors so that others who would have a chance at long term survival could benefit and take advantage of their right to life after the death of another?
    • Some "Prolifers" would refuse to donate based on a belief that brain death isn't death (and if other major organs aren't perfused adquately, they won't do anyone any good); my own personal opinion is that this argument is inconsitent with a belief that a woman should choose a definitive death from a treatable disease by refusing treatment in order to continue even the earliest of pregnancies should also require any "Prolifer" that meets criteria for death criteria to allow harvesting of criticial organs in order to protect the sacred potential for continued life of another. However, those who have this concern about "killing people to harvest organs" could always become a living donor (kidney, pancreas or partial liver) or even provide cadaver skin grafts for burn victims.
Is it really accurate for "Prolifers" to pass judgment on those who support reproductive rights including abortion have no appreciation for the sanctity of human life?

Brain Death Controversy in Jewish Law

The Mitzvah of Organ Donation

Does my Religion Approve of Organ Donation? - information about views of many major religions.


edited 5mar05 13:00

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The "life begins at conception" believers must want to go to a lot of funerals since 40-60% of unions betwen sperm and egg do not make it to viability. We don't even know exactly how many don't make it because often women don't even realize they are pregnant when the embryo stops developing.